It’s considered one of, if not the, most important traditions in sports. Filled with emotion and pride, it brings a crowd together before the intensity of what’s about to follow.
It has always been seen as a sacred tradition and been held with the utmost respect. Everyone, athletes and spectators alike, stand as the national anthem is performed, until this August, when professional athletes began taking a stand by taking a knee.
On Aug. 14, Colin Kaepernick, back-up quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, went unnoticed as he sat on a bench during the national anthem before a pre- season NFL game. He would also sit for the national anthem the following week, but it would not be noticed until Aug. 26, according to SB Nation. The story immediately gained national attention, and Kaepernick told the media that he did not stand for the anthem to protest the ongoing police brutality issues.
The flag and the anthem stand for the freedom that this country grants its citizens. While I understand that at the same time one of those freedoms is the right to protest, I believe that disrespecting the flag, the anthem, and the men and women who have risked and sacrificed their lives for this country is something I would personally never even consider.
According to Fox Sports, fellow 49er Eric Reid joined Kaepernick a week after the quarterback made national headlines. Suddenly players across the league were taking a knee during the anthem, and on many teams, such as the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans, players began standing with one fist in the air as the anthem was performed. However, some teams have come together through this controversy and locked arms during the anthem to show their unity. 49ers Head Coach, Chip Kelly, has recognized Kaepernick’s right as a citizen to kneel during the anthem, according to The Mercury News. “It’s not my right to tell him not to do something. That’s his right as a citizen,” Kelly said.
The NFL has also commented on the situation, releasing a statement in which NFL Vice President of Communications, Brian McCarthy, said, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.” Kaepernick has made it pretty clear that he will continue to kneel until he feels that changes have been made. According to ESPN, Chris Long, defensive end of the New England Patriots, has voiced that while he will not join Kaepernick’s movement, he does support that he’s taking a stand.
“I respect the anthem. I would never kneel for it. We all come from different walks of life and think differently about the anthem and the flag and what that means. But I think you can respect and find a lot of truth in what these guys are talking about, and not kneel. Those aren’t mutually exclusive ideas,” said Long. Everyone has lived their own life; they’ve had their own experiences that have formed their beliefs. Because of this, especially on an issue like this, most people will have a different opinion.
While I personally believe it is very disrespectful, I also can’t deny anyone their constitutional right to protest. Long discusses this idea and how he can’t put himself in the shoes of his peers in the NFL, but he respects that they’re standing up for what they believe. He says that even if you don’t agree with how it’s being done, you respect that it is being done. “Just have an open mind,” said Long.